The African American Museum was founded in 1974 as a part of the Special Collections at Bishop College, a Historically Black College that closed in 1988. The Museum has operated independently since 1979. The $7 million edifice was funded through private donations and a 1985 Dallas City bond election that provided $1.2 million for the construction of the new facility. The African American Museum is the only one of its kind in the Southwestern Region devoted to the preservation and display of African American artistic, cultural and historical materials. It has one of the largest African American Folk Art collections in the United States.
The main objective of the Museum is the presentation of meaningful experiences for children and adults who would not ordinarily visit a museum. The rich heritage of black art and history is housed in four vaulted galleries, augmented by a research library. Living African American culture is experienced through entertaining and educational programs presented in the theater, studio arts area and classrooms. The Museum’s permanent collections include African art; African American fine art; magazine, historical, political and community archives.
The 38,000 square foot structure, built in the shape of a cross, is made of ivory stone. Natural materials and design motifs are used through the Museum in a manner reminiscent of pre-industrialized cultures of the African continent. The shape of the window represents an abstraction of the Dogon Statue from Mali, West Africa. This shape is also present in the entrance to a group of Ethiopian Orthodox churches that were excavated out of the surrounding rock at Lalibala in the 12th century.